Desiring power which oppresses, desiring oppression: these are taboo topics in the era of post-poststructuralist identity politics. Asking why people mobilise themselves to support logical apparatuses of structural control is, however, essential. Why? Ultimately it is a real phenomenon, and the question has not been satisfactorily explored. Explicating the complex relations which engage subjectivities in- and under- contemporary neoliberal statist capitalism requires thinking afresh problematic sado-masochistic schemas. Michel Foucault noted, throughout his analysis of Western society, power as not simply repressive, it is generative. It generates hallucinations, chimeras, visions, images and catalyses fusions of hyper-hybridity.
State power to imprison, second only to the ability to legally afflict death, is a most extreme formation of control and oppression. Not only is mass imprisonment as a technique a historical anomaly, recent and regionally particularised (Western Europe) in its initial development, in homo sapien histories, it has gained near universal ethical and practical efficacy within a very short period of time. Under the rubric of utilitarianism, operationalism and technocratic-administrative inventions employed to ‘protect law and order,’ major segments of public citizenries in Western democracies have come to actively support policies which police, prosecute and imprison.
Amongst these same citizenries, who are demanding ‘tough on crime’ policies, are almost near universal xenophobic support for anti-immigrant legislative platforms. The question remains, how do pro-statist narratives, tropes and norms become entrenched and imbued with callous, indifferent subjectivities? Criminalising entire minority segments of its citizenry, the United States leads the way in mass incarceration and other of sadomasochism; couple this phenomena with the rise of Donald Trump (an admitted, on camera, sexual offender), a brash, vulgar billionaire to the presidency, and queries arise aplenty: what is happening? What is creating the drive to expand punitive state powers, criminalise minority populations and expel the “bad hombres?” Interrogation, investigation and scrutiny of those legally allowed to police, prosecute and imprison is essential, as well as a critical analysis of iso-imaginary vindictive citizen configurations.
Several propositions, psychoanalytical and otherwise, outlining potential stimulant determinations marshalling iso-imagninary vindictive citizen crystallisations include: destabilising identities in the era of digital nomadism, mass migration and climate-cityscape changes; gaps left in ego-formations of traditionally privileged bodies (white, middle class, heterosexual males), gaps actuated by explosive techno-minority cultural efficacy and political potency (from Ellen DeGeneres to Snoop Dogg to Black Lives Matter to homosexual marriage parity and the Obama Age, etc.); loss of (white, primarily male) affective identification with social master-signifiers (“Dude, where’s my State?”), whilst embodying contradictory privileged disenfranchisement (poor, working-class whites); and finally, potentially a fear of what the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan called the ‘Name/No/Law of the Father’ receding into a kind of chimerical voided-chaos, paradoxically empty and terrifyingly full of terror at the same time.
From: 40 Reasons Our Jails and Prisons Are Full of Black and Poor People
Mass imprisonment is a political choice. Drug-war hysteria, punitory iso-imaginary vindictive popular fantasies, Benthamite utilitarianism and Judeo-Christian confessional/repentant tropes contour to lock up the abject object-figure of ‘the criminal.’ Inspired by crime fiction, detective/police worship, media audiovisual sensationalism (see: Cops), a creeping sense of warped warp speed change, subjects confronted with biological (viral, bacterial), chemical and nuclear threats attempt to futility expel the ‘danger.’ Danger is here represented by the abject criminal-drug dealer, criminal-immigrant (“bad hombres”), criminal-queer, criminal-sexual predator, criminal-fraudster, etc. Paradoxically none of these aforementioned politically-acceptable targets include the likes of Wall Street executives, power-brokers and financial elite guilty of billions of dollars openly expropriated from the public coffers, weapons dealers, actuators of genocidal international aggression against shared ideals of national sovereignty (US-UK ‘interventions’ in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, etc.). A Janus-faced hypocrisy fills cells with the poor, the Black, the Latino, the Asian, the Other whilst engaging in a phantasmagoria of dubious piety that defines a crime’s severity not by the harm done, but rather by the subject accused. No one is in prison because of what they did, rather they are in prison because of who they are.